Extraordinary Gifts

Recently, I have seen some banter around the blogosphere which argues against the idea that the Spirit giftings of 1 Cor 12:8-10 should be considered any more special than other gifts mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, at least those found in places like Rom 12:6-8 or not too far along in the 1 Cor 12 passage, mainly some of those found in vs28-30. This argument normally flows from the cessationist sector, or those who believe these specific gifts are either not normal for today or have ceased all-together.

I actually understand the desire to keep all gifts on a kind of level ground, not making any of them more important than others. Quite like we want to steer clear of any two-tiered Christianity with the have’s on one side and have not’s on the other. This has unfortunately been created by some of our brothers and sisters in Pentecostal and charismatic circles. I know and it saddens my heart.

If anything, we are all one in Christ, as Paul argued adamantly in Gal 3:26-29.

But while I agree with this underlying focus and emphasis of non-continuationists on the importance of all gifts, I do want to clarify some things that come from the Pentecostal and charismatic circles of why we might emphasise the extraordinary nature of those gifts found in 1 Cor 12:8-10. Continue reading

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The Great Non-Charismatic Trump Card

Those who know me know I am a charismatic-continuationist. For me, at least with where I am heading in this article, this boils down to mainly two things: 1) I am committed to the reality that all gifts of the Spirit are still available to the church today and 2) I also come from a church perspective and heritage that has traditionally emphasised the importance of the times when the church gathers together in its varying ways.

But, I am also a teacher-theologian at heart. Not the most esteemed by any means. But the ministry gift of teacher seems to be the greatest measure of gifting in my calling in God.

Knowing this fact, I am continually thinking through the in’s and out’s of charismatic-continuationist perspectives and experiences. Sometimes the analysation can kick into overload.

Yet, the odd thing is that I have also experienced some very ecstatic things in my life (not always personally, though sometimes, but also with regards to others in various gatherings). I’ve reached a point in my life where nothing really shocks me. I think there are definitely some general guidelines we must take to heart as we gather together, and as a shepherd within a local church context I do consider my role of protection quite important and sobering. But, at least for me, I believe 1 Cor 14:33 has turned into the great non-charismatic trump card for many – For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. Continue reading

The Tongues Conundrum (Part 8)

Here is my next-to-last article on the subject matter of the gift of tongues. If you want, you can see the previous seven posts by clicking here. This particular post will deal with the gift of interpretation of tongues. The ninth and final article will share a unique account of some ministry friends of mine and their first ever experience with the gift of tongues.

I don’t believe I need to spend as much time on this gift, knowing that I covered some of its aspects in my thoughts on the gift of tongues. Hence one article. But, to begin, I give this summary definition to ponder: The gift of interpretation of tongues is the Spirit-enabling to interpret a message in tongues into the known language of the people so that they may enter into the meaning of the message and be edified. Continue reading

The Tongues Conundrum (Part 7)

Well, with regards to my series on the gift of tongues, I thought I would get on track to finish it all a few weeks back. I had just a few short articles to finish out, but alas, I haven’t posted in a couple of months. Therefore, I wanted to put up this newest article, with only 2 more left following today (at least, I hope).

The 6 previous articles can be found at these links:

  • Article 1 – An introduction to Spirit-inspired speech
  • Article 2 – Some specific introductory thoughts on tongues
  • Article 3 – Some in depth thoughts on ‘tongues of angels’ in 1 Corinthians 13
  • Article 4 – The 3 purposes of tongues: praise, prayer and proclamation
  • Article 5 – The 2 uses of tongues: personal and public
  • Article 6 – Understanding the difficult passage of 1 Cor 14:20-25

I move on to an important point to remember with the gift of tongues, or possibly any gifting that is used more ‘spontaneously’ amongst the body of Christ. This crucial reminder focuses in on the proper controlling of the gift. Continue reading

The Tongues Conundrum (Part 6)

I am finally getting back on track to finish out my series on the gift of tongues. The title of the series – The Tongues Conundrum – points to the reality that this is the most debated, and probably most misunderstood, gift of the Spirit.

As I recently pointed out, the five previous articles can be found at these links:

  • Article 1 – An introduction to Spirit-inspired speech
  • Article 2 – Some specific introductory thoughts on tongues
  • Article 3 – Some in depth thoughts on ‘tongues of angels’ in 1 Corinthians 13
  • Article 4 – The 3 purposes of tongues: praise, prayer and proclamation
  • Article 5 – The 2 uses of tongues: personal and public

In this article, I want to take the time to look at a very confusing passage in 1 Corinthians 14. It is as follows:

20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Cor 14:20-25)

Can you see the confusion, almost contradictory statements, with these words of Paul? Look at vs22-23 again: 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?

In vs22, we read that the gift of tongues is a sign for unbelievers. But in the next verse, Paul points out that, if all are speaking in tongues, and an outsider-unbeliever comes into the gathering, will they not have a negative reaction and say that the people are out of their minds.

You see the seeming contradiction?

And some have personally seen this kind of reaction described in vs23 in a church gathering. Not only that, but, because of Paul’s words in vs23, some churches only allow for the use of tongues in smaller settings such as homegroups or prayer meetings.

So, what is going on here? How do we approach such a passage?

Well, in vs22, when Paul says that tongues are a sign for unbelievers, he is not pointing to the fact that they are a positive sign, but rather a negative sign. How? Well, this all goes back to vs21 – In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”

Here, Paul is quoting from Isaiah 28:11. This is important for us to understand the context of what God was speaking to Israel in the Old Testament. Within that specific situation, Isaiah is warning of the judgment that would come upon the people of Israel for all of their disobedience, idolatry, etc. And so, by strange tongues, God would speak to this people. This would be fulfilled as the Assyrian armies came in to take the Israelites captive, ransacking the northern tribes of Israel. And, of course, the Assyrians spoke quite a different language from the Hebrew people of that day. Hence, Isaiah’s words:

For by people of strange lips
and with a foreign tongue
the LORD will speak to this people (Isaiah 28:11)

And, so, what Paul alludes to in 1 Corinthians 14, by referring back to the words of judgment in Isaiah 28:11 is that, if the church gathers together and all speak in unintelligible, and uninterpreted tongues, such will become a negative sign of judgment for outsiders who have come in the gathering. To this, Paul says you are not utilising the gift in a proper manner. For remember, it is uninterpreted tongues that function as a negative sign. Interpreted tongues are good. That’s the whole context of the passage in 1 Corinthians 14 – when you use the gift of tongues in a public setting of proclamation, follow up with an interpretation.

Therefore, I do hope this sheds a little more light on the enigmatic passage of 1 Corinthians 14:20-25.

Remember, Paul is not saying we should never use tongues in the public gathering of the church. He is instructing us to not have a bunch of people speaking out public messages in tongues without interpretation. Otherwise, like in the days when God judged Israel through the Assyrians, this would become a negative sign of judgment upon the unbelieving and unspiritual in our midst. They wouldn’t know what is going on. They would think the congregation mad.

Thus, let’s follow the practical guidelines of vs27-28 and provide interpretations as we allow for the gift of tongues to be used in our gatherings. This is a good and beautiful gift of God’s Spirit given to the body of Christ. But our call is to use it correctly for the edification of the body and even for drawing those to Christ who are not yet followers.